Monday, October 18, 2021

Lawsuit Claims White Actors Who Cry ‘Reverse Racism’ Could Hit ‘Hamilton’ with Discrimination Case

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(L-R) Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (C), Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Vanessa Nadal, and playwright Lin Manuel Miranda meet the cast and crew of “Hamilton” backstage after the gala performance in support of Sentebale at Victoria Palace Theatre on August 29, 2018 in London, England.
(Source: Dan Charity/Getty Images Europe

*Charter Communications and Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios have been embattled in a racial discrimination lawsuit since 2016 that has now reached the Supreme Court.

As reported by Variety, Charter filed a petition earlier this month asking the high court to review its appeal of the civil rights lawsuit Allen filed against the cable giant, accusing the company of refusing to carry his label’s more than a dozen lifestyle channels because of race.

Entertainment Studios is one of the few media companies owned by a Black America.

Charter maintains that it did not discriminate on the basis of race in its decision not to carry Allen’s roster of cable networks. However, in the petition, the cable operator notes its First Amendment right to take racial matters into consideration when making editorial decisions.

With the $10 billion lawsuit set to move forward to trial via a Ninth Circuit ruling, Charter says the case could spark an endless discrimination claims, and the petition cites Lin-Manuel Miranda’sHamilton as an example.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda performs at “Hamilton” Broadway Opening Night at Richard Rodgers Theatre on August 6, 2015 in New York City.
(Source: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images North America)

The musical quickly became a hit largely in part to Miranda casting non-white actors to portray America’s Founding Fathers and other historical figures. Charter’s petition claims white actors should be able to hit the play with discrimination lawsuits for excluding them from the casting process.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Charter argues that if a recent Ninth Circuit ruling is left in place, white actors claiming “reverse racism” could turn out victorious in court.

How?

Perhaps the following excerpt from Charter’s petition to strike down Allen’s suit will help it all make sense:

“Although decisions about content are often unrelated to the characteristics of the speaker (and generally should be), clearly that is not always the case when it comes to editorial decisions in circumstances where race and content are related. Indeed, plaintiffs themselves draw a connection between racial identity and content when they assert that their suit is intended to draw attention ‘voices of African American-owned media companies.’ The musical Hamilton is notable for its creator’s decision to cast exclusively minority actors as the Founding Fathers,” writes the Clement team. A refusal to contract with a white actor to play George Washington cannot be made an anti-discrimination violation without profoundly undermining First Amendment values. [I]t would allow even an objectively terrible white actor to bring an action for being denied a part in Hamilton even if factors other than race would provide an obvious explanation for why the actor would not get a part as a Founding Father in the minority cast of Hamilton (or in any kind of cast for any other play). Left in place, the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning will have a devastating chilling effect on the free speech rights of all speech platforms — from magazines, to websites, to bookstores and theaters — that select and promote speech originally produced by others.”

Attorney Paul Clement is representing Charter Communications and recently released a statement regarding the petition.

“The musical ‘Hamilton’ is notable for its creator’s decision to cast exclusively minority actors as the Founding Fathers,” he said. “A refusal to contract with a white actor to play George Washington cannot be made an anti-discrimination violation without profoundly undermining First Amendment values.”

To further illustrate their point, Charter referred to “The Color Purple” and “Invisible Man,” noting that both works would “be a very different books if they were written by white men.”

“Just a few examples confirm that the Ninth Circuit’s purportedly bright-line pronouncement about the relationship between race and content is elusive and incoherent. ‘Invisible Man’ and ‘The Color Purple’ would be a very different books if they were written by white men. Or to use the Ninth Circuit’s own example, forcing a bookseller to include white or Asian authors would make a hash of an editorial decision to feature only books written by African American authors,” Charter stated in its filing. “The bookseller could make that race-conscious decision on the view that such authors have been underrepresented in the past and the bookstore’s mission is to promote such authors without regard to the substantive content of their works.”

Read the petition in full here.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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